Clemson holds off Seminoles in Bowden Bowl
AP Sports Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. – Florida State’s offense still needs a lot of work. It’s defense could use a tuneup, too, after first-time starter Cullen Harper threw two touchdown passes in Clemson’s 24-18 victory over the No. 19 Seminoles on Monday night.
This was supposed to be a retooled Florida State attack with first-year offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher bringing the flash back to the Seminoles in the latest version of the father-son Bowden Bowl.
Instead, it was Harper and the Tigers who came out throwing to take a 21-0 lead before the game was 17 minutes old – and bring their coach, Tommy, his third straight win over father Bobby’s Seminoles.
Florida State rallied from 24-3 down in the second half of the season opener for both teams. When Drew Weatherford hit Richard Goodman for a 15-yard TD pass with 11:40 left, the Seminoles trailed by 6.
Weatherford and the Seminoles got the ball back three more times after that, but could not score.
Clemson fans rushed the field and the collapsible goal posts came down after Weatherford’s final pass fell to the ground. But officials chose to review the play, moving orange-clad fans out of the way.
Finally, they were told the play stood and the game was indeed over.
Harper, a junior, was a big reason for the celebration.
He connected with freshman tight end Brian Linthicum on an 11-yard scoring pass and Aaron Kelly for a 41-yard TD connection as the Tigers took a 21-0 lead less than 17 minutes into the game. In between, tailback James Davis scored on a 29-yard run.
Florida State stumbled through a miserable first half where it managed only one first down and 62 yards.
Weatherford was under constant pressure and looked lost when he wasn’t.
Florida State only crossed midfield once in the first half after Roosevelt Lawson’s blocked punt.
The Seminoles found their rhythm in the second half.
Antone Smith had a 49-yard run to Clemson’s 1, then followed with the score that drew them to 24-11. Goodman’s TD catch tightened things up even more.
But Weatherford and the Seminoles couldn’t sustain the rally.
They got to Clemson’s 31 with 3 minutes left. But Florida State’s junior quarterback threw three incompletions and was taken down from behind by defensive lineman Philip Merling.
Harper was 14-of-24 for 160 yards and no interceptions. Davis gained 102 yards on 18 carries.
The victory closed Tommy within a win of his father after the ninth meeting of college football’s best known family feud.
Bobby’s Seminoles won the first four games in the series by a combined score of 160-79. Tommy won four of the past five, including the last three at Death Valley.
Clemson got things going with a reverse to Jacoby Ford that went for 34 yards to Florida State’s 23. Three plays later, Harper found Linthicum for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The Tigers were at it again moments later when linebacker Nick Watkins recovered Preston Parker’s fumble.
Davis, who gained 1,187 yards a year ago, showed off his power on the next play, breaking two tackles and cutting hard left near the goal line for his 29-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Two series later, Harper hooked up with Kelly for a 41-yard touchdown pass.